United States v. Napoli, CRIMINAL ACTION NO. 07-75-1

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Writing for the CourtBartle
Docket NumberCRIMINAL ACTION NO. 07-75-1,CIVIL ACTION NO. 11-6353
Decision Date26 September 2012




September 26, 2012


Bartle, J.

Before the court is the timely pro se motion of defendant John Napoli ("Napoli") to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

Napoli was found guilty by a jury on October 4, 2007 of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) and 846 (Count I); two counts of violent crimes in aid of racketeering ("VICAR") in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3) (Counts II and IV); collection of credit by extortionate means, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 894 (Count V); one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count IX); two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Counts X and XI); and unlawful possession of a machine gun, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(o) (Count XII). The jury acquitted Napoli of one VICAR count (Count III). In responses to a special interrogatory, the jury determined that Napoli conspired to distribute over 500 grams of crystal methamphetamine. Napoli was sentenced on

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April 16, 2008 to a term of 432 months of incarceration.1 The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment and sentence on April 21, 2010. See United States v. Heilman, 377 F. App'x 157, 165 (3d Cir. 2010). It issued its mandate on May 19, 2010.

Napoli now alleges in his § 2255 motion that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel through a series of errors made by his attorneys during the trial and sentencing. On May 18, 2012 and August 7, 2012, the court held an evidentiary hearing limited to the issue of whether Napoli's trial counsel failed to call certain witnesses on Napoli's behalf.


The underlying facts, in the light most favorable to the government, are as follows. Between January 2003 and June 2006, Napoli organized and led a racketeering enterprise, known as the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Breed Motorcycle Gang ("Breed"). This organization, located in Bristol, Pennsylvania, was a hierarchical motorcycle gang with a strict authoritarian leadership. As president of the Breed chapter, Napoli had the ultimate authority over the Breed enterprise. The Breed gang trafficked 125 pounds of crystal methamphetamine over that three-year period.

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From approximately March 2006 through June 2006, co-defendant William Johnson ("Johnson") became the principal supplier of methamphetamine to the Breed gang. Napoli directed that the methamphetamine from Johnson be distributed to numerous mid-level distributors inside the Breed gang.

Within the Breed gang, violence was frequently used to ensure loyalty and compliance with orders from leadership. A former Breed member, Christopher Quattrocchi ("Quattrocchi"), testified that in March 2003 Napoli and others participated in beating Thomas "Schnozz" Burke ("Burke") at Napoli's residence. Burke was a prospective member of the Breed, who several Breed members did not trust. During the same evening, Burke urinated on the dining room wall of Napoli's home. Napoli took out a drill with a Phillips head attachment and screwed it into Burke's arm. Napoli later brutally beat Burke. After the beating, Burke fell asleep while still wearing his Breed colors. Quattrocchi testified that Napoli tried to set Burke on fire pursuant to a Breed tradition of setting on fire anyone who falls asleep wearing Breed colors, but Quattrocchi dissuaded Napoli from doing so because they were inside Napoli's residence. Burke sustained a fractured eye-socket and facial bone, among other injuries.

On November 24, 2005, Napoli, Johnson, and Quattrocchi, along with other Breed members, brutally beat past Breed president James Graber based on Napoli's belief that Graber had stolen money from a game machine in the gang's clubhouse. This organized assault and battery was formally approved by the "Breed

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Executive Board" a week in advance. The beating resulted in Graber spending four days in the intensive care unit of the hospital with damage to his back, head, liver, and spleen.

The government also produced evidence that Napoli stabbed a local bar patron in a fight when a bartender asked Breed members to leave a bar because the owners prohibited patrons from wearing motorcycle colors in their establishment.

As a result of the investigation of the Breed gang by the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Attorney General sought and obtained wiretaps for a phone used by Napoli. The wiretap was authorized on May 3, 2006 and a thirty-day extension was signed on June 2, 2006.

On June 6, 2006, the Pennsylvania State Police searched Napoli's home. The search recovered a Ruger Model nine millimeter pistol, loaded with fourteen rounds, a Kel-Tech Model nine millimeter pistol, loaded with eleven rounds, a separate magazine loaded with thirteen rounds, and other items pertaining to the Breed, including a computer containing records of Breed club laws, prospective laws, and funeral bylaws. Cooperating witness Eric Loebsack ("Loebsack") testified at trial that Napoli directed him to remove firearms from the home of Robert Freudenberger, another member of the Breed, and store them in storage lockers registered to John Wilson, who was Loebsack's roommate. Loebsack also testified that he rented the lockers in Wilson's name at Napoli's direction.

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Co-defendants Napoli, Johnson, and Thomas Heilman were tried together during a twelve-day jury trial. Napoli was represented by two attorneys at trial, Jack McMahon and Arnold Joseph, and by a third attorney at his sentencing, Hope Lefeber. The government called 35 civilian and law enforcement witnesses, including eight cooperating coconspirators who testified to Napoli's involvement in drug distribution as well as the Breed's drug financing and violent methods.


Napoli alleges in his § 2255 motion that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel as a result of 26 errors made by his counsel during trial and sentencing. Under the Strickland standard, Napoli bears the burden of proving that: (1) his counsel's performance was deficient; and (2) he suffered prejudice as a result. Id.; United States v. Nino, 878 F.2d 101, 103 (3d Cir. 1989). Our scrutiny of counsel's performance is highly deferential in that we presume counsel's actions were undertaken in accordance with professional standards and as part of a "sound trial strategy." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689 (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101 (1955)).

The first prong requires that "[counsel's] performance was, under all the circumstances, unreasonable under prevailing professional norms." United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). Under the second prong, Napoli must show "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional

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errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694. A "reasonable probability" is one that is "sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. When ruling on a § 2255 motion, the court may address the prejudice prong first "and reject an ineffectiveness claim solely on the ground that the defendant was not prejudiced." Rolan v. Vaughn, 445 F.3d 671, 678 (3d Cir. 2006).


We will address each of the errors Napoli alleges in turn. Napoli first contends that his trial attorneys were ineffective because they failed to object to the closure of the voir dire proceedings in the courtroom even though this closure allegedly violated Napoli's Sixth Amendment rights to a public trial. For supporting evidence, Napoli has submitted affidavits from his co-defendants and family members stating that they were told by the judge to leave the courtroom for the duration of the jury selection. The affidavits all state that the court ordered the courtroom doors to be closed and locked from the public until the voir dire and jury selection process was over because the courtroom was going to be packed with prospective jurors and there would be no room for spectators. In contrast, the government contends that the courtroom was never closed or locked, but rather that the court asked spectators to yield their seats if there were not enough seats for the prospective jury panel. The court recalls the events in question and the

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government's version is accurate. The court never ordered that the doors be locked or anyone excluded from the courtroom.

"Not every courtroom closure deprives a defendant of the right to a public trial under the Sixth Amendment." Morales v. United States, 294 F. Supp. 2d 174, 178 (D. Conn. 2003) (citing Peterson v. Williams, 85 F.3d 39, 42 (2d Cir. 1996)). In Morales, similarly to the situation here, the courtroom was closed during jury selection because there was not sufficient space in the gallery for both prospective jurors and spectators. In a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the defendant argued that this closure violated his Sixth Amendment rights to a public trial. The court found that reserving the gallery to accommodate the prospective jurors was well within the discretion of the court to "keep order in the courtroom, and to proceed fairly and efficiently." Id...

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